March Madness reminds us that online sports betting is instant, accessible and everywhere. In Iowa alone, residents wagered almost $1.25 billion in the first six months of the current fiscal year. About 90% of those bets were placed remotely through a smartphone, tablet or browser.
That convenience carries some responsibility, according to mental health professionals and consumer credit watchdogs across the state.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) implemented a state-wide voluntary self-exclusion program in 2004. It essentially allows individuals to ban themselves from all forms of gaming in the state of Iowa.
The exclusion process starts with completing the IRGC’s enrollment form and submitting it by:
- traditional mail delivery
- or in-person
In person options include
- the IRGC Des Moines office
- an Iowa Gambling Treatment Program (IGTP) agency
- or any state-licensed gambling facility
But even if a problem gambler signs a self-exclusion agreement and can no longer wager in person, how does he or she control wagering online? IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko explains:
“If an individual signs up to participate in the state-sponsored voluntary self-exclusion program, it is for all entities regulated by the commission — casinos, online sports, fantasy sports, pari-mutuel companies, and racetracks. An individual cannot choose which entities they would like to exclude themself from when using the state-sponsored self-exclusion program.”
Self-help options are the law for online sports betting
From self-administered personal limits designed to encourage self-control to “cool off” periods, Iowa rules and laws require that all online sports companies offer options for individuals to help reduce or eliminate problem gambling. These directives can usually be found under an app’s “Responsible Gaming” tabs on mobile devices and are done on a case-by-case or a book-by-book basis.
- Single bet or spending limits — If you find yourself betting uncomfortable amounts of money, setting a specific single bet or spending limit will restrict the amount of money you can wager at a time. Usually, the limit applied goes into effect immediately and may help compulsive gamblers curb overspending.
- Deposit limits — Instead of depositing huge sums of money into a sports betting account, individuals can restrict the amount of money they can play with at one time. These limits also take effect immediately.
- Session time limits — Many compulsive gamblers find themselves distracted from work and home by spending too much time wagering online. A self-administered session time limit can help reduce an individual’s presence on sports betting apps.
- Cool offs — Whether gambling is a problem or just a fun hobby, it’s always healthy to take a break from wagering. Choosing to abstain for a few days or longer with limited account access may help put daily betting into perspective.
- Self-exclusion — This option is a major step in getting help and a more permanent solution compared to account limits or cool off periods. The state’s voluntary self-exclusion program will deactivate any online sports betting or fantasy sports betting memberships for five years or life.
- 8 warning signs of gambling addiction (and how to get help)
- How the self-exclusion program works in casinos
If a loved one is exhibiting warning signs of a gambling disorder, consider these resources:
Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH)
Your Life Iowa
National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG)